Mention faith in the same breath as secularism and people get confused.
And yet, I’m an atheist with faith, the unwavering kind. But the difference is that I’m an ardent believer in us, humans, rather than in representations of us often referred to as deities.
Because we have reason and intellect, because we are curious and questioning, because we are real and tangible, I place my faith in us. This means that I believe in the limitless potential of the human spirit and value human prowess above all else, be it science or art.
Human intelligence is the closest thing I have to religion because this asset we all share makes miracles big and small happen every single day. We survive, we rise above adversity, we heal, we rebuild lives, and we change.
Our capacity for evolution and self-actualization only knows self-imposed limits. If we do not set any then our life is wide open, a blank page on which we’re free to weave any thread our imagination can conjure up.
What is a deity but an imaginary friend?
We’ve never met them so we can’t be sure they do or do not exist, but they’re by our side regardless. Odd though it may sound, I can relate to that, all the more as my own brand of faith is sometimes undistinguishable from wishful thinking.
To continue to believe in the innate goodness of the human animal without sinking into cynicism when you live in America is a daily challenge.
But even in the land of capitalism, individualism, and barefaced greed, human decency abounds. It just doesn’t exactly call the shots at the moment. This is why my faith is pragmatic, practical, and immediately applicable. Common sense, compassion, and communication rule my world, and no single day is ever devoid of all three, not anymore.
It took five years mired in major depressive disorder to remember what mattered most: people, places, and prose.
Love is what holds me together, love is what reinforces my faith in humanity on a daily basis. My parents are love in action as they navigate the reality of Stage IV cancer; the loving support of friends and allies, meanwhile, is helping me be there for them.
No matter how harrowing the present, everything sparkles and glows as fellow feeling twinkles in and out of my day. To me, this hyperreal contrast is nothing short of wondrous, the polar opposite of the depressive isolation that made up my daily mindscape for over five year.
Life is so dizzying at times I’m never not in a state of mild surprise at still being around.
But for my faith, I would be dead.
I spent five years wondering how to put an end to the pain of existence but resolved to keep going because I come from scrappy, stubborn people. My Eastern European grandfather survived WW2 as a POW in Nazi forced labor camps and went on to lead a normal life and raise five well-adjusted kids.
There was no way I was going to check out without first putting up the fight of my life. And so I did, going it alone for the longest time until other humans came along and offered me their hand to hold.
How’s that for evidence that we humans are actually a lot better than we think we are? And a lot less self-centered than our behaviors would have us believe?
While it’s often easier to embrace gloom because nothing seems to be going right, I spent too many years smothered in darkness to let it encroach further upon my life. I now treasure every moment and make a point of acknowledging all the good, all the time, no matter how seemingly insignificant because it never actually is.
Nothing will ever be more valuable than human worth, which cannot be measured in dollars; nothing will ever mean more than human warmth.
The feeling we get when we connect deeply with another human is priceless. We can’t engineer it, we can’t buy it, we can’t commodify it, we can’t sell it; we can only experience it.
And while we do, we can grow it, nurture it, cherish it, and honor it with sustained action and care.
The divine is within us all, and the human heart can become a deity if we choose to make it one.
After all, what is religion but universal love? And what is universal love but a form of faith?